Dr. Luis Daniel Rey, from the small town of Malanzán in La Rioja, has now been on duty for 39 days straight, working 16 to 18 hours each day. He is one of three doctors responsible for some 4,000 people in the Facundo Quiroga district, many of whom are dotted around mountain villages far away from the Malanzán hospital where he works and often require home visits. However, since 10th December, Rey has not been relieved of his duties by either of his colleagues.
In an interview with the local media, the overworked doctor said that he falls asleep at his desk and expressed his disappointment at not being able to watch the final of the Argentine Cup, which resulted in a victory for his beloved team River Plate. More shockingly, Rey reported that he has been “insulted by patients because they demand to be seen.”
On Monday, he also had to endure attacks from the provincial government, particularly the health minister, Judith Díaz Bazán, who divulged false information to try and discredit him and threatened to remove him from his position as director. Since then, however, Rey’s colleagues have issued a statement expressing solidarity with the professional.
“The thing is that I’m also human, and if many days of work accumulate, that can bring consequences. One is prone to make a mistake, but I won’t let that happen. That’s why I go on attending to patients at the hospital, in my home and in theirs,” explained the doctor. “Sometimes the patients don’t understand what’s going on and they want to be seen. I arm myself with patience, take a deep breath and carry on my work.”
Today the indomitable doctor from rural eastern Argentina – who said that his work requires him to act as not just a doctor but also “a psychologist, a counselor, a priest or a politician, according to which patient I’m seeing, and always with the biggest smile” – spoke about the phone call he received from President Mauricio Macri.
In dialogue with El Federal Online, Rey described his emotional reaction to the call: “It surprised me, it moved me and it made me cry. Talking to the president isn’t something that happens everyday and it’s not something you can be prepared for. But to feel his support gave me the strength to continue working for 100 more days, although I hope that doesn’t happen.”
It seemed like the President had indulged in a bit of football banter with the doctor too: “The only thing he reproached me for – and pretty vehemently – was that I’m a River fan. I asked him who the best team in Argentina is, because logically it’s River as they won the Cup, and he told me it was by chance.”
A matter of hours after the friendly exchange, a team of professionals arrived at the Malanzán hospital, which had been promised by the provincial government on Saturday.